8/16/2010 11:51pm, #1
Martial arts teacher Eric Protas pleads not guilty in molestation case
Martial arts teacher pleads not guilty in molestation case
EL CAJON — The owner of a popular martial arts school in Allied Gardens who is accused of molesting one of his students pleaded not guilty Monday to felony charges.
Eric Protas, 38, of La Mesa faces a dozen counts, including a lewd act on a child and a lewd act on a child age 14 or 15. If convicted, he could be sentenced to more than 21 years in prison.
More than 60 of Protas’ supporters filled the courtroom and several more stood in an adjacent hallway during his arraignment in El Cajon Superior Court. Members of the crowd gasped and some cried when Judge Charles Ervin denied a defense request to reduce Protas’ bail.
It remains set at $1 million.
Protas’ attorney, Albert Arena, had argued for a much lower bail amount — $150,000 — citing Protas’ strong ties to the community and the fact that there is only one named victim in the case.
“He’s been a pillar of the community,” Arena said of his client.
Deputy District Attorney John Philpott told the judge that Protas is accused of engaging in “strong sexual conduct” with the victim, a 13-year-old boy, from July 2009 to May 2010. The boy came forward with information about the molestations, the prosecutor said.
Philpott said in court that the allegations are supported by Protas’ own statements captured in a recorded telephone call.
The prosecutor told the judge a high bail was necessary not only to protect the public, but also for the defendant’s own safety. He said there is evidence Protas made comments about killing himself if the allegations were made public.
Authorities found a suicide note during a search of Protas’ property, Philpott said.
The defense attorney said Protas was going through a difficult divorce at the time of the alleged conduct, which could explain the note, but that he poses no danger to himself or others.
A few people who had attended the arraignment spoke to reporters outside the courtroom and expressed disbelief about the crimes Protas is accused of committing.
“This man is a wonderful man and he has been a wonderful role model for my children,” said Paulette Gallanis, who like many others wore a T-shirt bearing the name of Allied Gardens school of Martial Arts, where Protas is an instructor.
Gallanis said Protas taught her three sons, all of whom have taken his martial arts classes, his work ethic and “strong body, strong mind” philosophy.
If he is able to post bail, Protas is prohibited from contacting the victim or being in the presence of anyone under age 18 without the supervision of an adult, the judge said.
No good news :(
8/18/2010 10:06pm, #2
****, ma instructors are going to have a worse rep than Catholic priests (and Mormon Bishops)."Preparing mentally, the most important thing is, if you aren't doing it for the love of it, then don't do it." - Benny Urquidez
11/02/2010 12:53am, #3
Instructor accused of lewd acts closes Allied Gardens martial arts school
EL CAJON (CBS 8) - A local karate instructor accused of having sex with a teenage student is temporarily closing down his martial arts school. Eric Protas made the announcement on Facebook to parents of students who believe he's innocent.
Eric Protas appeared in El Cajon court Monday while free on $800,000 bail. The 38-year-old karate instructor is facing more than two dozen counts of engaging in sex acts with a teenage boy who took classes at the Allied Gardens School of Martial Arts. The boy testified at a hearing last month their sexual relationship began when he was 13.
On a Facebook page dedicated to promoting his innocence, Protas announced his martial arts school will be shutting down until the trial is over.
"The tongue of my accuser has set this massive forest fire ablaze... and now a school that has been open for 20 years and has helped the lives of thousands must be closed... for now," Protas wrote.
In court, Judge Allen Preckel ruled attorneys will be allowed to inspect confidential school records on the boy making the accusations. The judge also ordered Protas to turn over a 9mm pistol he owns to La Mesa police.
"We just think it's best and prudent that Mr. Protas not own or possess or have access to any firearms, as we would with anybody charged with these types of crimes," deputy district attorney John Philpott said.
Protas has been ordered to have no contact with his teenage accuser while free on bail. Eric Protas and his attorney both declined to comment outside court Monday.
The judge set a new trial date for Jan. 4.